‘How Criminology can be useful in Criminal Trials’

Author: Satwik Sengupta

Studying at Amity Law School, Delhi

ISSN: 2581-8465


The topic I have prepared my research paper on is ‘how criminology can be useful in criminal trials’. In this research paper, I have highlighted why our criminal procedure mechanism is lacking in many aspects and have discussed ways in which it can be exponentially improved. The Paper highlights the lacunas of the criminal procedural code and the process followed by the various machinery involved in carrying out a criminal trial. Subsequently, the paper would try to shed light on the various methods offered by the science of criminology which would help in tackling these problems with a superior level of efficiency. Also, in this paper, I would explain the importance of criminology in various stages of criminal procedure emphasizing the importance of criminology in all these stages and how it would help improve the situation of a criminal trial in the country. In the paper, I would also include various case laws regarding the subject in which justices have identified and utilized the principles of criminology. Towards the end, I would bring to your attention to the problems faced by criminology in India and how its importance isn’t yet recognized and furthermore give potential solutions to such problems. Through this paper, my aim will be to interlink the social science of criminology to the procedure of criminal trial.


The Criminal Procedural Code, commonly referred to as CrPC, came into force on 1st April 1974 as an act which would, in detail, describe and talk about the formal procedure which needs to be followed for a justifiable procedure of a fair criminal trial. Any and all procedures of criminal trial need to be completely in adherence to the Criminal Procedural Code in order to justify the validity of the apprehension and the potential conviction of the accused in question.

However, the procedures listed in the respective procedural code have unfortunately not evolved with time and the subsequent evolution of the concept of law and is considered by many to be not competent enough to tackle the vast array of crimes that have either developed from basic crimes or newer forms that have emerged over time like cyber crimes, identity-related crimes, etc. Moreover, formulating amendments to the act is a viable option to tackle this situation but these amendments take a long period of time to be discussed upon and finalized thus resulting in little to no benefit upon the larger picture.

In this context, to tackle the lacking aspect of the Criminal Procedural Code upon the newer developments of crime and law, the evolving concept of Criminology can be utilized. Criminology refers to the interdisciplinary field of behavioral sciences which derives its validity especially from the research of sociologists, particularly those who deal with the sociology of deviance, psychiatrists, psychologists and also relevant legal researches who have put forth relevant writings on aspects of crime.1 Criminology sums up all these sources to form a generalized approach to help gauge the intensity, relevance, motive and other notable reasons behind the committal of any sort of crime.

The most important feature of criminology is that it bases its theory of crime upon the one aspect which seldom undergoes any kind of change – human behavior. Criminology is a tool that perceives crime from a different point of view altogether; in other words, it shed light upon the nonlegal aspect of any sort of criminal activity including vital aspects such as causes, its correction and subsequent prevention of crimes. The concept of Criminology began development in and around the 18th century and has constantly undergone the procedure of evolution throughout the course of time. Few names which are relevant and essential behind the inception and subsequent progress of the science of criminology are Sir Samuel Romilly Jeremy Bentham, Adolphe Quetelet, and Cesare Lombroso2. They were prominent sociologists, statisticians, and mathematicians who in their own way linked these other sciences to the concept of crime. Over the years many thinkers and jurists have helped in evolving this relatively new but powerful concept of criminology and have helped to avoid stagnation in the society of the same. However, the concept of criminology was not accepted at that time by the authorities and the theory put forth by the thinkers that “all criminals were not born but shaped by the environment around them” was not accepted. Thus delaying the application of criminology in tandem with the legal aspect of the crime. However, throughout the years the concept of criminology has been widely accepted by many countries and has helped in the development of new laws to tackle the imminent evolution of crime in society.

However the importance of criminology in India has not been fully recognized yet and therefore there is no such intention of researching the science of criminology and to comprehend it in relation to various prevalent criminal provisions and laws in the country like The Indian Evidence Act, Indian Penal Code, and the Criminal Procedural Code. 

Even though there has the development of various societies like the Indian Society of Criminology, which was established in the year 1970, even before the implementation of CrPC, but still the usage or understanding of Criminology was initially not present in the provisions of any of the acts dealing with the problem of criminality in the country. There have been attempts to make criminology a more prominent science in the eyes of the lawmakers of the nation but in vain. Over time few basic concepts discussed in Criminology have trickled down into acts dealing with the hurdle of crime in society, one such relevant provision was the provision of mens rea in the Indian Penal Code. Mens rea refers to the criminal intent behind the committal of the crime provided that the accused has the mental capacity to form such criminal intent. Criminology deals with such situations that the mere legal perspective cannot perceive and comprehend individually. Criminal Procedural Code, in our country at this time is not at par with the contemporary situation of crime in society. The adaptation of various methodologies suggested by criminology can help inject a new spirit into the Criminal Procedural Code as criminology uses advanced interdisciplinary approaches to tackle the issue of crime affecting individuals as well as the society at large.

There have been a few instances where the courts have used or acknowledged a few aspects of criminology so as to give a just and fair decision for the trial in question.

In the case of Chhagan Lal v. State of Rajasthan(1982)3, it was discussed that Criminology of social crimes should be an area that needs to undergo serious research.

In the case of Renuka Bai alias Rinku v. State of Maharashtra(2006)4, the stay order on the execution of the appellant was vacated as Justice K.G.Balakrishnan stated while announcing the judgment that “We have carefully considered the whole aspects of the case and are also alive to the new trends in the sentencing system in criminology. We do not think that these appellants are likely to be reformed. We confirm the conviction and also the death penalty imposed on them”.

In another case, Bishnu Deo Shaw v. State Of West Bengal, (1979)5, the Hon’ble Supreme Court 964, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that “criminal justice isn’t a computer machine. It deals with complex human problems and diverse human-beings. Accused are like other persons. They too are creatures of circumstances and therefore the Court emphasizes the requirement for recording of special reasons with regard to these offenders. The expression special reasons have been utilized by the Court with relevance to constitutional and legislative directives and keeping in sight the changing times and present principles of criminology.”

Similarly, if aspects of Criminology are inculcated into these various provisions of the law they may prove to be beneficial. This research paper will analyze various methodologies used in criminology and link them with the various stages of criminal procedure in order to attempt at proving the usefulness of criminology interrelated to the provisions of the Criminal Procedural Code.

The preliminary stage of criminal proceedings is the complaint stage which involves the filing of an F.I.R.(First Information Report) or complaint to the magistrate or any other mode of complaining as prescribed by law which sets into motion the further subsequent procedures of a criminal trial. The usage of criminology does not play much of a role in the complaining stage of criminal procedure as although this stage is one of the most important stages of a criminal trial (sometimes also considered as a pre-trial procedure), it does not have much usage of the psychological aspect of crime that is presented by criminology. The usage of criminology is the most vital in the next stage of criminal trial or procedure i.e. the investigation stage.

The investigation stage commences when the Investigating Officer starts to look into the matter as per Section 156 of the Criminal Procedural Code and follow the procedures as prescribed under Section 157 of the same Code.

Under section 157 of the Criminal procedural code, the investigating officer is expected to act upon the information received by the officer and under the powers conferred to such officer by section 156 of the Criminal Procedural code, he shall send a report to the Magistrate who is empowered to take cognizance of such matter or offence upon the submission of a police report, and subsequently may proceed in person or can depute one of his subordinate officers ranking not below the prescribed rank conferred by the State government on this behalf. The investigating officer or the officer deputed by such investigating officer my proceed to the scene of the crime to analyse and investigate upon the facts and circumstances of the case at hand and furthermore, if necessary, to take adequate steps required for tracing and finding such offender or offenders and their subsequent arrest.6

In this stage, criminology can play a major role to help ease out the procedure of investigation for the respective investigation officer. As discussed earlier, criminology helps to shed light onto the psychological aspect of criminal activities, implying that along with focusing on the fact that how the murder was committed, criminology will also help determine the circumstances which resulted into the committal of this crime, in other words, why the crime was committed. If the investigating officer is in possession of the psychological driving force which led the offender into committing such crime, such information might help the officer to narrow down the list of suspects further. The physical and circumstantial facts of the case clubbed along with the psychological ideology presumably used behind the committal of such crime may lead to faster investigation procedure. The study of crimes, similar to the kind of crime which is being investigated at hand, and of the offenders who indulged in those respective criminal activities may lead to a deeper discovery of facts of behavioural or psychological nature so as to further help in investigation of criminal activities. Investigation is one of the most vital part of criminal trial procedure as without the facts and evidences derived and discovered through the process of investigation, the trial will amount to be baseless as, if there is no evidence of such committal of crime then there will remain no proof that the crime was even committed by the suspect or any other person in question. So therefore, to strengthen the procedure of investigation, criminology can become a major part of this step. The Code of Criminal procedure can include new provisions relating to mandatory psychological evaluation of the prime suspects of the case being investigated and also give more importance to the psychological and statistical aspect of crime rather than just the physical facts and circumstances of the case. If there is a creation of provision regarding the psychological evaluation of the suspects, then it will imply that proper attention is being paid to other interdisciplinary aspects of crime as well and this would lead to better efficiency in the investigation procedure. In the case of Surya Narain Singh & Ors. Etc. v. State of Bihar (1987)7, Justice S. Shamsul Hasan, stated that “The juridical remedy, that the matter in issue has acquired at the hands of Hon’ble the Chief Justice, infrequently needs to be garnished and I am privileged to agree with the reasonings and the conclusions arrived at with the aid of him in all of the cases. The idea of the speedy trial so enthusiastically adopted at a far off age, where the medieval concept of criminology was reiterated and passed right down to the modern-day age within the shape of the 6th Amendment of the American Constitution and in India by using its induction into Art. 21 of the Constitution with the aid of the Supreme Court and its inherent and latent omnipresence within the laws of the land. It seems amazing that an idea born almost one thousand years in the past could require reiteration inside the years simply before the 21st century in India and that too as an alternative hesitantly within the initial degree. But I may say with pleasure, boldly and categorically, that this element has been endowed with realistic applicability with the aid of this Court inside the well-known trilogy of judgments passed within the cases of the State of Bihar v. Ram Daras Ahir, 1985 Cri LJ 584: 1984 BBCJ (HC) 749, State of Bihar v. Maksudan Singh, AIR 1986 Pat 38 : (1985 Cri LJ 1782) (FB) and Madheshwardhari Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 1986 Pat 324 : (1986 Cri LJ 1771) (FB).41. If I can be accredited to say so, with the greatest of humility, that concept of criminology, that compliments the quickest feasible disposal of a criminal indictment with no extraneous consideration howsoever laudable, was gasping for sustenance with the slow erosion and effacement of the principles of evidence past affordable doubt, the golden thread within the net of criminal trials, and an indicted individual is innocent until he’s proved responsible and with the delayed criminal investigation and trial turning into a tolerated nuisance lead to persecution of an indicted person. I can be approved to reiterate that fast trial is the best approach by which justice can be meted out in its proper, natural and prison form. Protracted and behind schedule research and trial negate the very idea of justice and Fairplay.”

The Justice in the above case recognized the importance of a speedy process of investigation for the benefit of equity and justice.

The same stands for the enquiry stage, which is somewhat similar to the investigation stage, the major difference being that inquiry is done by the Magistrate whereas investigation is done by the prescribed investigation officer. The job of the magistrate in the inquiry stage is to gauge the truth and fallacy of a fact at hand as compared to the investigation stage, where its main purpose is the discovery of facts and evidence of various natures. Therefore, criminology can help the magistrates to gauge the facts and statements presented with the help of the analysis of the psychological data present with the magistrate. It creates an opportunity for the Magistrate to take a different approach to comprehend the facts and situation at hand and ensure that there is no injustice taking place.

The next stage where the tool of criminology can be useful is the execution stage, in other words, the stage where the sentence is given to the convicted felon and further execution of that sentence is carried out. The sentence is naturally given in accordance with the crime committed by the accused, but with the usage of the various methods presented by criminology, sentences can be given also depending upon the heinousness of the crime also. The magnitude of the crime committed is a major factor that is many times overlooked while sentencing a convict as it is mostly not considered by the various criminal laws prevalent in our country. However, there have been instances of cases in which the judges deciding the case acknowledged the latest trends of criminology, one of the cases being, as discussed above, Renuka Bai alias Rinku v. State of Maharashtra(2006)8. In this case, the judge while giving the judgment, considered the latest trends in criminology and upheld the death penalty imposed by the High court of Maharashtra.

Criminology can be used for the opposite purpose also as observed in the case of Inder Singh and Anr. v. State(Delhi Administration)9 of the year 1987. In this case, the observation made by Justice Krishnaiyer, V.R. of the Supreme Court was that “Criminology is more than police billy and ‘peace and order’ is more than smart F.I.R. It is a positive action for prevention, detection, and prompt prosecution. Once we agree, as we do, that the conviction under s. 302 is right, the sentence imposed, namely, life imprisonment is the minimum. Even so, there is an amount of psychic distress in marching two young men into lifelong incarceration. The humanistic aspect of the case may highlight the deplorable plight of the man behind the murderer and the mind behind bars. The fact that he has committed a murder in a fit of anger or prodded by family feud cannot warrant his being further criminalized by a long term of brutalizing prison life”

In this case, the judge identified the situation and plight of the convicts studying their psychological condition at the time of the committal of the crime and held that the criminal act was done in a fit of rage and that the convicts do not deserve to still continue to undergo rigorous imprisonment and “brutalising prison life”. This case evidently shows the importance of a psychological analysis of a criminal act. 

This case depicts how criminology can help in a more fair level of conviction remaining within the boundaries of justice and the law.

In the case of Vasant Narayan Pawar v. State of Maharashtra, (1979)10, Justice V.R. Krishnaiyer, again using the concept of criminology in yet another one of his judgments observed and stated that “Wife burning tragedies are becoming too frequent for the country to be complacent. Police sensitization mechanisms that will prevent the commission of such crimes must be set up if these horrendous crimes are to be avoided. Likewise, special provisions facilitating easier proof of such special class of murders on establishing certain basic facts must be provided for by appropriate legislation. Law must rise to the challenge of shocking criminology, especially when helpless women are the victims and the crime is committed in the secrecy of the husband’s home. We hope the State’s concern for the weaker sections of the community will be activated into appropriate machinery and procedure”. By saying so, Justice V.R. Krishnaiyer dismissed the special leave petition filed by the husband of the victim who was the prime suspect in this case of dowry death and dying declaration u/s 32 of the Indian Evidence Act.

These two instances above clearly show us how criminology can be an important tool used for serving justice. Due to the application of the principles of criminology fair judgments were given in the discussed cases above wherein, if not for the concept of criminology, the judgments wouldn’t have been fair to a certain degree. These kinds of cases emphasize the importance of the analysis of other aspects of a criminal act except for solely the criminal aspect.

Presently, the importance of criminology has not yet been recognized in any and all aspects of criminal law. Even though it has many benefits, as iterated in the above situations, and many more, it’s true value hasn’t yet been recognized. Through this research paper, I would highlight a few points which act as lacunas in the current scenario regarding the condition of criminology in the present day and age. One major aspect is that the basic research which is required to comprehend all aspects of criminality is missing, in turn creating a gaping hole in the understanding of criminal behavior. Criminology, as mentioned several times in the above paragraphs is a study of the non-legal aspects of law and it merges criminal law with other interdisciplinary sciences which allows a person to comprehend criminal behavior from not just one but various perspectives. This could prove to be a vital tool to upgrade the comprehension ability of the relevant public so as to identify and possibly curtail any criminal behavior or act.

Secondly, the focus should be shifted to enforcing the already existing laws and not to change the laws. What needs to be focussed on is the level of efficiency pertaining to the implementation of such laws like effective investigation, prosecution, and speedy trial so that justice is upheld and also there is no delay in the same. Supreme Court advocate Krishan Mahajan is against any changes in the law11. He has stated that “enhancement in penalty may mean that best evidence is gone. Rapists may increasingly tend to kill their victims to wipe out any evidence. Now at least, the victim can give her testimony, appear in court and identify the perpetrator of the crime and say what has happened”.

Thus, the fact of the matter is that the science of criminology can help in the effective implementation of all criminal laws as explained throughout the research paper.

Thirdly, criminology, by helping to understand and gauge the intent of the convict committing the respective crime, may also help in improving our understanding of the condition of the criminal going back into society. In the majority of the cases, the criminal has an aggravated intent to harm the victim for which he or she is convicted and that is acceptable. However, in many cases, crimes tend to be committed in a fit of rage and from a vulnerable point. These convicts, naturally, get the same treatment as the other section of convicts. Therefore, to change such trends, the competent authority should take into consideration the psychological situation of the criminal indulging in the crime itself. This can be made possible with proper implementation of the various methods offered by criminology. This perspective has been adopted by Justice V.R. Krishnaiyer in the case discussed above of Inder Singh and Anr. v. State (Delhi Administration). In this case, the justice correctly identified the plight of the convict at hand and reduced his sentence of rigorous imprisonment as he identified the fact that the criminal act did not contain criminal motivation or intention behind it. Justice V.R. Krishnaiyer identified the trends of criminology and implemented it in this case which may have lead to that convict having a relatively better place in society.

Apart from all these factors, one vital aspect which is resulting in the slow speed of implementation of criminology is that the science of criminology is not available easily to all persons interested in it. The point being, that the science of criminology should also be made available far and wide just like any other kind of social science. Crime is a major evil prevalent in society throughout the ages and it is a sensible idea that every person should have some true knowledge and capability to understand the mindset of people indulging in such criminal activity and it may also lead to rapid reductions in crime rates of the country. Basic knowledge of criminology will provide people with tools to tackle and identify criminals around them and also to contain any sort of criminal activity. It would also give law enforcement authorities a major upper hand in situations of dealing with crime. Criminology will majorly change the face of criminal trials in the country by simple and basic methods. A basic inference of the effect of criminology in criminal trials can be taken from the other countries which have implemented this social science into their laws and have witnessed the positive paradigm shift it brings to the aspect of criminal justice. Countries like United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, etc. have been using the concept of criminology for a long period of time and have been witness to the amount of efficiency it brings. India should also take ideas regarding the implementation of criminology which would help in setting up the mechanism effectively and properly.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that development and sustenance of modern criminology as a discipline or tool of learning and implementation, there is a dire requirement to fix the cracks that have been identified in various surveys pertaining to the applicability of this social science in consonance with criminal laws. Criminology in India has somewhat gained significantly more important than previous years and has a bright future ahead of it.  The quality and quantity of the amount of research indulged in criminology have shown major improvements. Criminology in India has grown to be a multidisciplinary topic of study in its true sense. Despite many lacunas currently present in the concept Criminology as a subject has astounding potential ahead of it. The huge amount of development it has shown when implemented in other contemporary countries proves how much of a change it can bring to the state of criminal trials in our country. It will come as an element that could help imbibe new spirit in the already existing Criminal Procedural Code and subsequently may lead to much more efficiency in criminal trials. All we need is a better quality of research and a proper implementation plan, and after that, it could lead to a potentially humongous development in criminal trials in India.

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